Plot: What’s it about?
My first thought from hearing a film called NARC was being released last winter was that it was going to be another big screen version of a video game we all remember fondly from the arcades or the endless afternoons of Nintendo. Fortunately, the film was not from that genre but Joe Carnahan’s gritty cop thriller follow up from his 1998 feature debut “Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane”
Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) is a suspended Detroit narcotics officer who 18 months later is given a chance to go on a case concerning the murder of a rookie cop name Michael Calvess. At first, Tellis is reluctant to take a look preferring time at home with his family. Tellis takes the assignment after the pleading of a captain that was close to the dead cop and insisting it would only be looking at some files. After reviewing, Tellis starts to notice that most of the files were linked to one particular individual, Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), Calvess’ partner. Despite the advice of the captain suggesting that Oak is not a stable individual, Tellis brings Oak with him as his partner knowing the sacrifices that he has to make both in his professional and personal life leading back to the connections in the world of narcotics away from his wife and baby boy.
From the unique positions of the film’s title cards to its ambiguous climax, NARC doesn’t let up one second. Every scene is a key scene linking in some point to another later and another and another with many layers. It also uses both a split screen approach and a quad screen approach in one scene that is reminiscent of the experimental movie TIMECODE and the TV show “24”. It’s not wasted and is used effectively. Also effective are the performances of Jason Patric and Ray Liotta. In the second role as a facial haired narcotics cop, Patric shows the toughness of Nick Tellis plus the complications that a narcotics cop has to go through to get the job done no matter what. As Henry Oak, Liotta gives an original characterization of the hotheaded maverick cop and has a hard edge that quite biting. If it’s one thing they have in common in this movie is that both portray their cops as human beings and not perfect individuals. Most of all, big kudos go to Joe Carnahan. On his second feature, he shows more promise both as a writer and as a director on this than his first feature. With his script, he takes you into one direction and then turns it upside down on a few occasions. Without this approach and the fresh dialogue, NARC would be another movie in the buddy cop genre, which this movie clearly is not and is dead serious and it is a better script because of it. I was disappointed that the studio didn’t wait until 2003 instead of December 2002 in a last ditch effort for award possibilities. I think it would have stood a better chance this year for any award consideration. It amazed me that this movie was not based on a book, so it was surely an oversight considering the strong competition in the Original Screenplay category were My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Talk To Her. Unfortunately, NARC was not a box office hit either but is worthy of another life on DVD.
Video: How does it look?
As for the look of the film, the print is very clean despite the mixture of two film stocks in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Carnahan makes great use of regular film stock and reverse stock giving NARC both a clear and grainy look with some of the colors range from soft to drained that’s been used in films like Traffic, Blow (another Liotta film) and Three Kings. There’s no edge enhancement evident on this disc. A great transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
The 5.1 Dolby Digital is most impressive accurately keeping the effects at a stable level with the dialogue coming through loud and clear. All in all a very impressive transfer visually with a solid soundtrack booming all the way through balancing the effects (gunshots, running, etc.) dialogue and music (scored by Soderbergh’s constant collaborator Cliff Martinez) nicely. The disc also has a Dolby Surround track in French and English and the subtitles are only in English.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This should be an example of how to do justice to a Paramount title whether it’s a recent movie or an old favorite. At the start of the disc, the Paramount film logo turns into the Paramount DVD logo turning into 2 options, PREVIEWS or MAIN MENU. It was a total shock for me considering Paramount’s lack of trailer or extra material of any kind on recent DVDs such as Flashdance or Footloose, but we’ll come back to that part.
Choosing the Main Menu using some selections of Cliff Martinez’s less-is-more score, NARC has interactive menus with little clips of the film playing on the menus and a non-motion scene selection menu.there is a commentary with writer/director Joe Carnahan and editor John Gilroy. It’s a playful piece with the two noting things during the production, the number of executive producers on the film as well as straying off a few times that is vaguely reminiscent of the two (so far) commentaries of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell on Big Trouble In Little China and The Thing. It’s a light and entertaining commentary but it’s leaves many questions about certain actor and production decisions (how did the actors come on board? Was there anyone else considered for the main roles? How long did it take them to shoot? etc.?).
Those questions I had from the commentary are covered quite nicely in the 4 featurettes. “Making The Deal” (13:20) goes through the casting decisions along with inspirations for NARC as well as the little rehearsal time and location choices. “Shooting Up” (19:24) goes through more from financing the film to the ending. “Visual Trip” (12:56) covers the cinematography of the film along with the many key technical aspects regarding the film and a few scenes. Finally, “The Friedkin Connection” goes into director William Friedkin’s take on the film as he goes into his feelings as well as parallels with his own cop film “The French Connection” All were directed by well-known DVD documentarian Laurent Bouzereau, who has worked in the past with the likes of Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Brian DePalma and John Carpenter. All featurettes together are a nice package that are not the usual fluff pieces and it’s the kind of work that Bouzereau is familiar with and it’s good that he has added an up and coming director onto his resume of fine directors. Very cool stuff.
Finally we have the film’s trailer (1.85:1) as well as the Previews section on the last page of the menus taking you to the same place as you were if you chose it in the beginning of the DVD.
Choosing the Previews option, we get trailers of 3 movies either presently in theaters (The Italian Job) or coming soon (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life, Timeline) along with 2 other titles coming soon to DVD (The Hunted, The Core). They are not chaptered so here’s a breakdown of the timing for them along with their framing (not necessarily representing the films OAR).